The (Badger-State Primary) Filter: 2.19.08

A round-up of this morning's must-read stories.

(David Brooks, New York Times)

How exactly would all this unity he talks about come to pass? How is a 47-year-old novice going to unify highly polarized 70-something committee chairs? What will happen if the nation’s 261,000 lobbyists don’t see the light, even after the laying on of hands? Does The Changemaker have the guts to take on the special interests in his own party — the trial lawyers, the teachers’ unions, the AARP? The Gang of 14 created bipartisan unity on judges, but Obama sat it out. Kennedy and McCain created a bipartisan deal on immigration. Obama opted out of the parts that displeased the unions. Sixty-eight senators supported a bipartisan deal on FISA. Obama voted no. And if he were president now, how would the High Deacon of Unity heal the breach that split the House last week? The victims of O.C.S. struggle against Obama-myopia, or the inability to see beyond Election Day. But here’s the fascinating thing: They still like him. They know that most of his hope-mongering is vaporous. They know that he knows it’s vaporous.

(Ben Smith, Politico)

Strategists almost universally said Clinton’s only hope is to bring Obama down through more — and more direct — attacks on his readiness to lead. And if that works, Clinton’s road map to victory is simply to start winning. An unexpected victory in Wisconsin on Tuesday would restore her campaign’s momentum. And win or lose there, Clinton, as her campaign has acknowledged, must win Ohio and Texas on March 4. Then, as the race stretches through the long spring of March, April, May and June, she needs to win the big state of Pennsylvania and — just as important — to win the argument about why she’s winning, the strategists said.

(Greg G. Borowski, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

In what amounted to a series of closing arguments, four would-be presidents raced from rally to rally Monday to make their best case to Wisconsin voters, who are to issue their verdict today. On the Democratic side, Barack Obama faced sniping over some recycled rhetoric, and Hillary Rodham Clinton benefited from an unplanned full day in the state. Meanwhile, all-but-minted Republican nominee John McCain arrived in Appleton with the endorsement of a former president, and Mike Huckabee called on voters to reject "party bosses" and the idea that "it's just (McCain's) turn. The results tonight won't seal the nomination on either side, but they could put a dramatic stamp on what remains of the 2008 race.

(Roger Simon, Politico)

Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign intends to go after delegates whom Barack Obama has already won in the caucuses and primaries if she needs them to win the nomination. This strategy was confirmed to me by a high-ranking Clinton official on Monday. And I am not talking about superdelegates, those 795 party big shots who are not pledged to anybody. I am talking about getting pledged delegates to switch sides. What? Isn't that impossible? A pledged delegate is pledged to a particular candidate and cannot switch, right? Wrong.

(Michael D. Shear, Washington Post)

Five top aides to Sen. John McCain hunkered down for two days of meetings at the senator's rustic cabin south of Flagstaff, Ariz., over the weekend as they began to plot his transformation from primary-season candidate to Republican nominee. As they ate barbecue with McCain and his wife, Cindy, the campaign's inner circle debated the dynamics of a race against either Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton or Sen. Barack Obama, the funding necessary for victory, the political climate likely to exist six months from now, and the shape of the organization they will need to quickly assemble.

(John M. Broder and Jeff Zeleny, New York Times)

The two candidates’ tone was driven in part by the prospect of a recession, which has in recent weeks shifted the focus of the presidential contest from war and terrorism to concerns much closer to home: jobs, foreclosures, energy and health care costs. It also reflected the dynamics and calendar of the Democratic race over the next two weeks. Ohio looms particularly large for both Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton because it is experiencing many of the troubles afflicting the economy over all. Mrs. Clinton is fighting to hold on to the lower- and middle-income voters and those with a high school education or less, who formed the core of her support in earlier contests but who began to drift away last week in primaries in Virginia and Maryland. This effort is vital to her success against Mr. Obama in Ohio.

(Matthew Mosk and Peter Slevin, Washington Post)

Aides to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) accused Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.) yesterday of plagiarizing portions of a recent speech and continued to question his vows to reform the campaign finance system as Clinton sought to drive home the idea that her Democratic rival's presidential bid is built on style more than substance.  The two-pronged attack came as Clinton attempts to slow Obama's momentum in today's contests in Wisconsin, which neighbors his home state of Illinois, and in Hawaii, where he was born.

(Christopher Buckley, New York Times)

Turn on the TV at any hour of the day and you’ll find Mr. McCain being excoriated in harsher terms than he endured from his jailers at the Hanoi Hilton — variously denounced as a) not conservative, b) really, really not conservative, or even c) so not-conservative as to make you wonder if he isn’t just the latest re-issue of the Manchurian Candidate... Let’s all breathe into a brown paper bag and calm down and consider the question: Is John McCain a small-c or large-C conservative? (Odd that his surname should contain both.) Or is he not a conservative at all?